Share This Page

Keystone Oaks boys basketball makes most of its opportunities

| Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
File photo
Erat Okok and the Keystone Oaks boys basketball team are head to the WPIAL playoffs for the first time since 2012.

When asked what his team has had to overcome during his first season with the team, Keystone Oaks boys basketball coach Tony Cherico was quick to reply with a lighthearted answer to a loaded question.

“How much time do you have?”

The Golden Eagles have had a season full of struggles that led to a 5-16 record. First, Cherico began installing his system during a shortened offseason after being hired in the summer.

Then starting point guard Kobe Phillippi missed the entire season due to an injury he suffered during the football season.

Along the way the team had to deal with several injuries, not to mention players needing to contend with personal setbacks.

“Plus getting to know each other and learning the way I coach,” Cherico said. “I told the players what we do in November and December isn't as important as what we do in January and February.”

That take to the season proved to be helpful. While Keystone Oaks has only five wins, they were enough to punch a ticket to the Golden Eagles' first playoffs since 2012.

After an 0-9 start, Keystone Oaks scored a pair of wins over Waynesburg and McGuffey. The deciding game came Jan. 21 as the team defeated South Park, 72-69.

“We knew this game was the one we had to win,” Cherico said. “We knew we had to beat them once.”

The 5-7 mark tied Keystone Oaks with the Eagles in fourth place at 5-7 in the Section 5-AAA standings.

Chartiers Valley finished on top of the section with a 12-0 record, Montour was second with a 10-2 mark and South Fayette came in third at 8-4.

Cherico praised the effort of Taylor Lehman — a Penn State baseball recruit — for changing his style of play. The 6-foot-5 forward was a shooter for the team in past seasons but was asked to extend his role near the basket this season.

“We needed him to play with his back to the basket to help defend the rim,” Cherico said. “He has done a really nice job of that. He really stepped up the scoring for us.”

With veterans like Erat Okok, Braydon Griffiths and Walt Hepner leading the charge, Keystone Oaks has continued to improve with each game.

“The bottom line is we competed with teams down the stretch,” Cherico said. “We didn't let teams roll over us as the season went on.”

The postseason experience will be helpful no matter what the outcome. Keystone Oaks has a group of six freshman and five sophomores and juniors. While the team will be looking at a young roster, the extra practice time will be beneficial.

“We saw great improvement from our junior varsity team,” Cherico said. “They were like a blank canvas, and we saw great development from them.

We will have three or four players who will make a big impact on next year's team.”

And for the seniors, it will be the payoff for their dedication to the team.

“They wanted a second chance to make their senior season special,” Cherico said. “They will remember this whatever our seed is or whoever we play.

“It is something to get excited about.”

Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at nsmith@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Nsmith_Trib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.